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About Payam


Dr. Payam Akhavan was born in Iran and came to Canada with his family in his childhood.  Moved by the execution of his 17-year old contemporary, Mona Mahmudnizhad, a member of the persecuted Baha'i minority of Iran, he decided to pursue a career in human rights.  Following his graduation from Harvard Law School, he became among the first UN prosecutors at The Hague, in the trials for "ethnic cleansing" in former Yugoslavia.  He went on to investigate atrocities on behalf of the UN in Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala, and East Timor; pursuing justice for survivors of the Yazidi genocide in Iraq, and the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar; and appearing as counsel in leading cases before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.  He received academic appointments at University of Toronto, McGill, Yale, Oxford, Paris, teaching human rights law.  In 2017, he delivered the CBC Massey Lectures, and his memoir "In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey" became the bestselling non-fiction book in Canada.  Payam Akhavan's human rights career has been featured in global media, including BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Maclean's magazine, CBC, Toronto Star, and TV Ontario.  He is recipient of the 2021 Law Society of Ontario Human Rights Award.

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